The case for using open source tools for test automation

  • Zero cost. Everybody likes free stuff, but the zero cost comes with even more benefits: when your teams can install the automation tools for free, they will be able to do their jobs better and easier (e.g. run more parallel jobs to minimize execution time, install all components of the test tool on both their Mac and their Windows machine, etc.)
  • Reduced friction. The fact that anybody can get started with the tool right away eliminates useless red tape and allows teams to move faster. With commercial tools, even after the expense is approved and you have the installation kit in your hands, you still have to worry about obtaining and setting up the license (and do it again every time it expires), or put in a request with your networking people to open up some obscure port to connect to the license server. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to discourage and demoralize your team before the real work even starts.
  • Promotes collaboration between teams. When you make a behavior less expensive in terms of money, time and effort, you are motivating people to adopt that behavior. When using a free and open source tool that takes 15 minutes to install, it’s much easier to standardize on that tool across an organization. Once your teams speak the same “language”, they can share test assets, test infrastructure, best practices, etc.
  • Harnesses the power of the community. It’s hard to overestimate the value of having a thriving community around a software product. Large and diverse communities are far more effective at innovating and uncovering bugs and best practices than teams working on closed, proprietary solutions. There’s something magical about posting a question on Stack Overflow and getting a complete, high-quality answer that solves your problem in the time it takes for you to top off your coffee mug. Not to mention that most responses are way better that some of the commercial support I’ve seen.
  • Prevents vendor lock-in. With proprietary tools, you are at the mercy of vendors, whose primary objective is to maximize revenue. What happens when your vendor decides to raise the price significantly after you’ve spent the last five years polishing your test suite written on top of their tool? How about if you need a new feature or integration? How much time will that take to add and how much will it cost you, if they even agree to do it? With open source tools, you at least have some options: you can write that feature yourself or pay a qualified third party. If you feel generous, you can even make a pull request to the original project and allow everyone else to make use of that new shiny feature.

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Adrian Theodorescu

Adrian Theodorescu

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Passionate software engineer, proud parent of two, author of the OpenTest functional testing tool for web, mobile and APIs.